employability skills

Disagreements are part of the human condition whether at home, in school, or in the work environment. Disagreement does not always feel good, but it is an opportunity to broader your horizons and learn something new. To do that we have to hone our listening skills.

It is natural for people to fight, physically or verbally, for their beliefs. We live our lives according to our beliefs, so how can we argue efficaciously?

  1. Don't attack the person. You can agree to disagree if you know the person truly believes what he is saying. In essence, you are annoyed at the expressed belief, not the person.
  2. Never attack the other person's ideas and/or beliefs. Ask questions in order to find out how their ideas or beliefs came about. If it relates to religion, back off totally. If you've ever been on the receiving end of someone's tirade or put-downs, you know how unset you have become. With a politically divided nation, people reflect those they listen to, i.e. Fox News vs. MCNBC. The more effective response is to say, “I don’t agree and here’s why.” Finally, agree to disagree, if you value the other person as a friend or co-worker.
  3. When raising a child, we need to make them feel mentally safe by switching from “You” messages to “I” messages, i.e.  “You are such a slob” vs. “I do not like how messy your room is.” Adults also have to be aware of “you” statements, i.e. “You are always late. You never study. You don’t pay attention.” ”You” statements are judgmental and can be very hurtful. When something annoys you, phrase it so it comes from you. “I wish you could be on time when we meet. I make sure I spend at least an hour a day on that subject. I wish you would listen to me.” These statements are about you and not put-downs about someone else.
  4. Be a good listener. Listening is the least taught form of communication in spite of its importance. Being a good listener is the greatest compliment a person can receive. It is a way of showing that you respect and understand the other person's perspective. An effective way to listen is to mirror the person talking. Nod when they nod. Assume the facial expression they have so they unconsciously know you are in sync with them. When the other person is talking, try to stop yourself from thinking about why you disagree or what you'll say next. Instead, focus on what's being said. When it's your turn to talk, repeat any key points the other person made to show you listened and heard what was said. Then calmly present your case and why you disagree.

Respect goes beyond difficult conversations, of course. Being helpful and considerate toward family members, teachers, or coaches in our everyday actions helps all of us (again, parents included!) establish a foundation for those times when we might disagree.

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